Program hopes to expand into city schools in 2008



Marc Bence/For Metro Edmonton


Janine Pajkowski shows off her dog Woozie as an eager participant in the Chimo Project, a program that partners animals with medical professionals as a healing tool for sick patients.

Animal handlers behind one of Canada’s first pet therapy groups for patients are seeing results and are ready to expand into schools, the program’s director said yesterday.

The city’s Chimo Project, which is celebrating 10 years of operation, trains animals and volunteers to work with physical therapists, psychologists and other health-care professionals to assist patients on their road to recovery.

Project director Dennis Anderson said their animals could help make a depression sufferer feel better about themselves.

"It’s helped curb mental health problems to a great degree," he said. "We’ve seen a reduction in anxiety, depression — and we’ve seen more motivation from patients wanting to overcome their problems after visiting with an animal."

Anderson said the project is in dire need of more volunteers and resources as they constantly turn down requests from organizations.